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Posted Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

6th Annual Commemoration of the Emancipation of American Slaves: Features Reenactors, Food, Music and Conversation

“Juneteenth” marks an important time in our nation’s history: the emancipation of all enslaved African Americans at the end of the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became the law in all states.

Morris County Celebrates

Kim and Reggie Harris

Community and faith groups will hold Morristown’s 6th observance of Juneteenth  on June 9 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Church of the Redeemer will be joined by Bethel Church of Morristown, which has expanded the Juneteenth events into a town-wide and countywide celebration to  mark Bethel AME’s 175th Anniversary.

Other participants include the Morristown United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church in Morristown, the Morris County Park Commission’s Historic Speedwell, and the re-enactors of the Second NJ Brigade.

“We thank the organizers of the Juneteenth remembrance in Morris County for calling attention to an extremely important and difficult time in our nation’s history, and for doing so in a very thoughtful and intelligent manner,” said Morris County Freeholder Director Doug Cabana.

Events are planned at three sites. Free parking and shuttle service is available between the locations.

  • Morris County Celebrates

    Fred Morsell portrays Frederick Douglass

    Reenactors on the Morristown Green from 1-3 p.m. See costumed interpreters, including Frederick Douglass reenactor Fred Morsell, President and Mrs. Lincoln, Union and Colored Troops. Make an Emancipation Day button. Hear stories and songs of freedom by Kim and Reggie Harris at 2 p.m. and learn more about how and why African Americans celebrate this holiday. These events are free.

  • Civil War Encampment at Historic Speedwell from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Reenactors will perform musket drills, a Civil War battle reenactment, present exhibits, read at story time, and give a quilting demonstration. Admission to Historic Speedwell is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $5 for children.
  • Discussion on Race and Community at the Morristown United Methodist Church from 3:30-5 pm. “Journey to the Beloved Community: Community Conversation on Race,” invites all to participate in discussions. Teachers who attend are eligible for professional development credits through the Amistad Commission. Admission is free. Free childcare is available.
  •  Thomas Nast's celebration of the emancipation of Southern slaves with the end of the Civil War. Nast envisions a somewhat optimistic picture of the future of free blacks in the United States. The central scene shows the interior of a freedman's home with the family gathered around a "Union" wood stove. The father bounces his small child on his knee while his wife and others look on. On the wall near the mantel hang a picture of Abraham Lincoln and a banjo. Below this scene is an oval portrait of Lincoln and above it, Thomas Crawford's statue of "Freedom." On either side of the central picture are scenes contrasting black life in the South under the Confederacy (left) with visions of the freedman's life after the war (right). At top left fugitive slaves are hunted down in a coastal swamp. Below, a black man is sold, apart from his wife and children, on a public auction block. At bottom a black woman is flogged and a male slave branded. Above, two hags, one holding the three-headed hellhound Cerberus, preside over these scenes, and flee from the gleaming apparition of Freedom. In contrast, on the right, a woman with an olive branch and scales of justice stands triumphant. Here, a freedman's cottage can be seen in a peaceful landscape. Below, a black mother sends her children off to "Public School." At bottom a free Negro receives his pay from a cashier. Two smaller scenes flank Lincoln's portrait. In one a mounted overseer flogs a black field slave (left); in the other a foreman politely greets Negro cotton-field workers.

    Thomas Nast’s engraving celebrating the emancipation of Southern slaves with the end of the Civil War.

    The celebration continues at the Church of the Redeemer from 5-9 pm, and includes music, family activities, food, and an outdoor movie. Admission is free.

Juneteenth is traditionally observed on June 19, when in 1865, Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued orders to the people of Texas that “in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United Sates, all slaves are free.

“This involves the absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer…” according to The First Juneteenth by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

To help tell the story here in Morris County, musicians and storytellers Kim & Reggie Harris willcombine traditional African-American spirituals and freedom songs with original folk, singing of life, love, the quest for freedom, and care for the environment. Kim & Reggie have earned wide acclaim for their contributions to the resources and knowledge base on the Underground Railroad and the modern civil rights movement.

Morris County Celebrates Frederick Douglass reenactor Fred Morsell’s professional acting career spans more 38 years, and includes seasons with the Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center, New York Shakespeare Festival, McCarter Theatre of Princeton, and other regional theatres throughout America.

Morsell has appeared both on and off Broadway in numerous plays and musicals, and has an extensive background in film and television. Among other roles, he has starred as Macbeth and Othello.

Support for this weekend’s Juneteenth program is provided by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.